by Brett French as published on The Independent Record
Last year the combination of slaughter and hunting removed 1,171 bison from Yellowstone
Last year the combination of slaughter and hunting removed 1,171 bison from Yellowstone. Of that total, 375 were killed by hunters — mostly tribal hunters — and 694 were sent to slaughter. The meat of the animals slaughtered is distributed to participating Indian tribes. Another three bison died in captivity.
The removal of bison is biased to females and young because they are the ones that tend to migrate, White said. That means that the population is trending toward an increase in the number of males, although it’s still deemed within the desired conditions, he explained.
Removing 600 bison would keep the herd numbers stable, based on mathematical calculations by the National Park Service, Deleray said. By removing 900 bison the herd would be slightly declining in population.
“What we’re managing for is a declining population,” Deleray said. “We’d have to go higher to get a more significant decline.”
If the park can cut the bison population to an average of about 3,500 animals, White said the park can then remove fewer bison in the future, possibly most of them through hunting and thereby put an end to the ship-to-slaughter program.
The only hang-up in that plan is that when there are fewer bison not as many migrate. Mild winters can also mean few migrants.
“That’s the idea behind reducing the herd,” Deleray said, “but we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
The potential for fewer bison migrating out of the park concerns some tribal hunters who have been exercising their treaty rights to kill the animals when they exit Yellowstone. Some tribal members argued for changes to ensure the hunts can continue, such as scaling back the trapping of bison or trapping bison later in the winter. That was met with opposition by some of the other IBMP partners.
“We all agreed and support that hunting is a preferable way to remove bison,” said Marty Zaluski, Montana State Veterinarian. “To suggest a trap shouldn’t operate,” or that it operate at a reduced capacity would be inconsistent with the goals of IBMP.
“Hunting was a tool and not an end in itself,” he said.
No bison have been hunted or trapped so far this winter, Deleray said.